The Tokaj wine region is a historic and famous wine producing region located in the north-eastern part of Hungary.
It is one of the oldest wine regions in the world and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002.
The region is famous for its sweet white wines, especially the Furmint grape variety. The region's unique climate and soil, combined with traditional winemaking techniques, give Tokaj wines their distinctive complexity, richness and sweetness.
The Tokaj wine region is made up of 27 municipalities and covers around 5 500 hectares. The vineyards are located on the southern slopes of the Zemplén Hills, which provide excellent sunshine and protection from the cold northern winds.
A borregio történelme egészen a 16. századig nyúlik vissza. A Tokaji Aszú, egy botritiszes szőlőből készült édes bor, az 18. és 19. században Európa uralkodóinak és nemességének kedvence volt, és gyakran hivatkoztak rá, mint a “királyok bora és a borok királya”.
Today, the Tokaj wine region remains renowned for its high quality sweet white wines, including Tokaj Aszú, Samorodni and Late Harvest. The region also produces excellent dry white wines.
Brief description of the main varieties:
Furmint is the main variety of the wine region today. There is no scientific evidence of its origin, but it is probably indigenous to the wine region. Its main characteristics are vigour, vigorous growth, relatively little greenwork and good tolerance of drought conditions.
Termesztésben elterjedt klónjai a T-92, T-85, P-26. Ízanyagokban rendkívül gazdag. Jó aszúsodó és savmegtartó képessége miatt a borvidék fő fajtájává vált.
Bora jellegzetes és jól eltartható. Állandó és magas savtartalma miatt az aszúborokhoz alapborként döntően a fajta mustját vagy újborát használják.
It is the other dominant grape variety of the wine region. It is named after its shape, which resembles the leaves of a linden tree. Its vines are vigorous, but have fewer shoots than Furmint. As a result, it requires less manual labour to green. The bunch is large and the long shoulders are often branched.
Its berries are smaller than Furmint, less rot resistant, and as a result it produces less aszú. Susceptible to drought, mildew and mites.
Common clones in cultivation are P 41, T 311, K 9, T 1007.
The wine is varietal, with a delicate lime honey, sometimes elderflower scent. It has good acidity, but lower than Furmint, so it helps out in weaker vintages. Because of their different water requirements, Furmint is planted in the upper part of the hillside, while Hárslevelű is planted in the lower areas.
An ancient grape variety known worldwide, it was probably cultivated by the ancient Greeks. The most intensely perfumed and aromatic member of the Muscat family, it is identical to the French Muscat blanc à petits grains.
It is early maturing, with small, shouldered clusters typical of western varieties, with a distinctive yellow colour when fully ripe and a rusty brown colour when exposed to the sun.
It is particularly suitable for making fragrant, dry wines for fresh consumption, but it can also be used to make late harvest and aszú wines with a special flavour.
This grape variety is a cross between Furmint and Bouvier and was developed specifically for the production of Tokaj wines. Zeta grapes are generally used to make late harvest and dry wines.
At least three basic conditions must be fulfilled for the development of botrytis blight, i.e. the development of drought: the wet weather inducing the fungal infection must ripen the grapes in full ripeness, at the same time the berries must be intact and free of damage, and after a few days of rainfall and humidity there must be a long dry period.
In many wine regions of the world, noble sweet wines are made from grapes that have been destemmed, but Tokaj aszú is very different from these wines. Its uniqueness is primarily due to the harmony of grape varieties, soil types and climatic conditions, secondarily to the specific winemaking process and thirdly to the oak barrel ageing.
Wine tasting at the Simkó Winery
What is Essence?
There are many records and researches about the healing effects of Tokaji wines in the world. General health benefits are attributed to it everywhere. It is recommended to cure digestive and nervous system complaints, to prevent anaemia, and its high phosphorus content is beneficial for bone formation.
Research shows that the most important compounds with such positive physiological effects are polyphenols, biogenic amines, metal ions, vitamins and penicillin.
Of course, we do not want to go into detailed chemical descriptions of the effects of each compound, but we would like to highlight some of the outstanding positive effects. Research shows that Tokaji wines and speciality wines often contain up to 3-5 times more positive compounds and minerals than other wines tested. In the case of Essencia, this ratio is even higher.
The most important metal ions are potassium, calcium and magnesium, all of which play an important role in the regulation of the nervous system.
In terms of vitamins, we can highlight the role of vitamin B, of which up to 10-15 times more than in other wines has been detected in Essencia.
There was a time when people competed in praising Tokaji and many doctors considered it a miracle balsam, even recommending it for hair growth.
Tokaji also has a beneficial effect on depressive disorders, due to its serotonin content.
It has anti-inflammatory properties thanks to its penicillin content and, of course, let's not forget that experts believe that Tokaji Aszú and Essencia are the most effective aphrodisiacs among the world's most renowned wines J
Add to this the great harmony of flavour that the high natural sugar and acidity levels provide when consuming these wine delicacies, and we need not go into further detail as to why we believe and recommend regular, but moderate, consumption of these earthly wonders.
The experience of tasting Tokaji Nektár is difficult to put into words, but some of the descriptions include the following thoughts:
"Essencia is extraordinary, absurd, dense, deep, complex and its taste is indelibly etched in our memory. Truly, truly wonderful."
Essencia is the most concentrated drink in the world, which makes it a great experience to taste, even decades or centuries later.
A unique, special, mystical, untechnological, untainted by man, natural treasure. A concentrated energy rich in minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and the aromas typical of aszú grapes.
The historical roots of the Tokaj wine region
The famous name of Tokaj aszú comes from King Louis XIV, which in itself is a reference to the centuries-old history of the Tokaj wine region. However, according to the first written records, grape cultivation in Tokaj-Hegyalja began as early as the 11th century and thanks to its continuous development, it is now one of the most famous wine regions in the world.
The wine region is a royal domain, with courtiers in royal service. In the time of Kálmán the Book, a Diet was held in Tarcal. The first mention of the first royal wine cellar in Tarcal.
In 1187, King Béla III settled the Order of the Knights of St. John Ispotályos (Order of the Knights of Malta) in the area of Tokaj, in the present-day Holy Cross vineyard. The Order founded a monastery in honour of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and the King donated considerable estates and vineyards to them.
Written records of Tokaj's winegrowing tradition date back to the 11th century. Significant Walloon settlements took place both before and after the Mongol (Tatar) invasions of 1241-1242 and 1282. The construction of underground cellars in the wine-growing region also began at this time, and written records have been preserved of these cellars, including those in Olaszliszka, Sárospatak, Serenc, Sátoraljaújhely and Tolcsva, as well as of vineyards (Előhegy in Liszka, Előhegy in Serenc, Királyhegy, Magita, Makramál, Megyer, Meszes, Rány, Sátorhegy). The founding of the Pauline monastery of St. Egyed (vicariata) in Sátoraljaújhely (1248), which in time became the largest vineyard in the wine region during the Middle Ages. The first mention of the Mézesmál vineyard on the border of Tarcal and Tokaj is due to a transaction of an ecclesiastical estate. Sárospatak becomes a royal manorial centre and, together with Sátoraljaújhely, a privileged settlement, i.e. a field town.
In the 14th century, the construction of underground cellars expanded and their number increased considerably, and the multi-storey cellar mazes typical of the Tokaj wine region were built. Thanks to the cultivation of vines, the wine-growing villages in the region began to develop, paying considerable taxes to the Roman Pope on the income from wine production. These villages were one by one so-called ecclesiastical settlements, i.e. they had parishes and privileged vineyards. Tokaj wine is mentioned for the first time in a court case in 1381. The foundation of the Tokaj-Tállya manor.
During the 15th century, the wine-growing region experienced significant and intensive economic development. During this period, Abaújszántó, Erdőbénye, Mád, Olaszliszka, Szerencs, Tállya, Tarcal, Tokaj and Tolcsva become wine-growing farming towns with a significant literacy and municipal government. In the second half of the century, the Highland towns of Bártfa and Kassa began to acquire significant vineyards on the borders of Olaszliszka, Mád, Sátoraljaújhely and Tállya. Sárospatak is granted the status of a free royal town.
The popularity of Tokaj wines is growing. Two types of wine are produced at this time. The first: "pure wine", made by pressing, the second: "pressed wine", made by pressing. The vine-growers, living in the country towns, increased their estates, several of which developed into gentry estates. This period is one of the most prosperous in the Tokaj wine region.
1550-1560: The decisive breakthrough of Tokaj wines on the national and international markets, a period of quality improvement. Polish merchants appear in the wine region. The Austrian imperial court bought Tokaj wine for generations from the mid-16th century.
1561: "Regulamentum Culturae Vinearum": regulations governing the cultivation of vines in Tokaj-Hegyalja.
1565: Mezőzombor is listed in the censuses as a wine-growing farming town.
1571: The first written reference to aszú wine is found in the Garay family estate inventory dated 15 May.
1589: Good quality Tokaj wines made without any selection are called "Főwein".
1590: In the work Nomenclatura by Balázs Fabricius Szikszay, the terms "Vinum passum-aszu szeőleő wine" and vinum primum - feőwein (later known as szamorodni) are used.
The name Tokaj is gaining ground in the wine market. Almost one third of the wine production is exported. Polish and Russian exports have gradually increased, slowly becoming a dominant factor for the wine region.
1616-1660: The Rákóczi era. It was at this time that Tokaj viticulture took on its still characteristic character and enjoyed its most prosperous period. Prince Rákóczi maintained numerous cellars and built several castles in the wine-growing area.
1641: Handbook of the Tokaj-Hegyalja order.
1655: A decree is passed in Parliament on the harvesting of the aszú.
King Louis XIV of France praised the aszub wine he received from Francis II of Hungary with his famous saying, "C'est le roi des vins, et le vin des rois" "This is the king of wines and the wine of kings". It was then that the area began to be called Tokaj-Hegyalja and the wine Tokaji wine, for ease of understanding.
1707: The state apparatus of the Rákóczi War of Independence orders a national classification for Hungarian wine regions. Dividing the areas into five groups, only Tokaj-Hegyalja received a first class classification. The role of the vineyards in quality and trade was then beginning to be recognized.
1720: János Matolai creates the classification of the Tokaj-Hegyalja vineyards. The vineyard classification was based on the quality of the vineyards and the quality of the harvests at the time.
1723: Legislation on the production of Tokaj grapes and wine.
1729: New legislation for the production of Tokaj grapes and wine.
1733-1798: A Russian wine buying committee provides the Tsar's court with Tokaj wine.
1737: The closed wine-growing area of Tokaj is regulated, the delimitation of the wine-growing area is established and the basis for the protection of origin is defined for the first time in the world. This will be the first regulation on designation of origin in Europe and the world.
1741: New legislation for the production of Tokaj grapes and wine.
1749: On the orders of Queen Maria Theresa, the former vineyards of the Bercsényi and Rákóczi families in Sárazsadány, Tarcal, Tokaj and Tolcsava are transformed into the so-called Royal Crown Estate. Its centre in Tarcal will be the former Zeleméry-Lorántffy-Rákóczi castle (now the Tokaj Research Institute). In the same year, the Szarvas, Mézes-Mály, Teleki and Terézia vineyards in Tarcal (now Tokaj) will be blocked and the vineyards owned by the Crown will be established.
1759: The first mention of copying (climbing) can be found in various documents.
1815: A Krakow trade record includes the Polish word szamorodni ('as it was', 'as it was born', 'born by itself'). From this time onwards, the old wine name begins to fade into obscurity.
1826: The first mention of the term translation (second-stage).
1853: In Mád, the "Hegyaljai Részvénytársaság" is established to represent the interests of Tokaj wines on the market.
1857: A testület „Tokaj-hegyaljai Bormívelő Egyesület” névvel átalakul, elsősorban a szőlőtermesztés és a borkészítés szervezeteként, érdekképviseleteként.
1872: In Tarcal, the "State Higher School of Popular Education and Vincellenkola" was founded.
1886: Phylloxera appears and kills 80% of the vines in 10 years. It was during this period that the first international lawsuit was brought by Tokaj producers to defend the Tokaj name in court.
1893: First Hungarian wine law with a separate chapter on the regulation of the Tokaj designation of origin.
1898: The territory of the wine region is being reorganized.
1920: The Treaty of Trianon, by changing the borders of the country, separates the settlements of Szőlőske and Kistoronya, as well as part of Sátoraljaújhely and its vineyards, from the wine region.
1920-1950: In pharmacopoeias, Tokaji aszubór is listed as a medicinal product.
1928: Establishment of the Tokaj-Hegyalja County Council.
1936: Clarification by law of the technology for the production of aszú wine.
1949: A wine research base is set up in Tarcal.
1950: The role of the vocational school in Tarcal is taken over by the Vocational School of Viticulture and Enology, then the Technical School, established in Sátoraljaújhely.
1950-1990: The merger of several state farms and state wineries in the wine region creates the Tokaj-Hegyalja State Economic Wine Estate, the predecessor of the Tokaj Trading House. The state winery buys grapes from small producers, organises production and wine trade.
1970: International registration of the Tokaj designation of origin under the Lisbon Agreement.
1982: Preparation of the vineyard classification system, the vineyard cadastre system, nationally and in the Tokaj wine region.
1990: The beginning of privatisation in the Tokaj wine region.
1993: Conclusion of the Agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Hungary on the reciprocal protection and control of wine names (Council Decision of 23 November 1993), including the reciprocal protection of designations of origin, including the exclusive use of the name "Tokaj" and its derivatives for Hungary, and the protection of the name "Tokaj" against wines with the varietal names Tokay and Tocai in Alsace and in the province of Venezia-Friuli-Giulia, with a moratorium until 31 March 2007.
2002: The Tokaj wine region has been inscribed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO's World Heritage Committee as a cultural landscape.
2004: The wine law allows the use of the name aszú exclusively for the Tokaj wine region. The name of the wine region is changed from Tokaj-Hegyalja wine region to Tokaji wine region.